Monday, June 15, 2009

Clerical abuse and clericalism

Read James Preece's brilliant analysis of the clerical abuse scandals and Catholic culture. Here's the money quote:

As far as I can see, the position of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales including our own Bishop Terrence Drainey is currently "let us have a culture that tolerates and even encourages clerical abuse, in which priests and bishops are free to abuse their power and authority and laypeople are expected to be co-conspirators or else face accusations of disrespect and disloyalty but let us make an exception for the sort of abuse that the civil authorities take seriously, that is, the sort of abuse that costs money and looks bad in the papers".

This is like saying "stealing is okay, as long as you don't steal anything somebody will notice" or "lying is okay, as long as nobody finds out". Essentially, the Bishops are saying "it's okay with us if priests abuse their power, as long as they don't do anything illegal".

What concerns me most of all is this: As long as the culture remains in place, the potential for harm continues. As long as the culture remains in place, the potential for "[hiding] behind a clericalism which is prepared to protect vicious behaviour at the expense of defenceless innocents" remains in place.

This is simply unacceptable.

This is partly why this blog has never been shy about reporting clerical abuse stories - something which the aggressive liberals in the comments boxes have never been able to understand, and which has got us in trouble with conservative Catholics as well.

Clericalism and ultramontanism is not the answer to the problems of today. Yes, we have problems of disobedience of legitimate authority justly exercised, and in those cases the authority should be supported. But this is not the opposite problem as the sex abuse being covered up by bishops: it is another example of the same problem.

How so? The sex abusers were disobedient. Their bishops didn't approve of the abuse; they asked them to stop. The abusers were breaking canon law as well as the natural law. The abuse persisted because of a failure of legitimate authority. But it also persisted because of the false deference towards that failing authority.

Because no-one wanted to confront and denounce the bishops and religious superiors who were failing to exercise their authority, out of deference to that authority, they were enabled to go on not exercising their authority.

The clerical club which protected the abusers, without necessarily approving of them, is also tolerating priests who commit liturgical abuses, refuse to give the faithful communion kneeling, refuse to teach the whole gospel, and turn their parishes into centres for left-wing activism.


Anonymous said...

"The clerical club which protected the abusers, without necessarily approving of them, ...blah. blah, blah....turn their parishes into centres for left-wing activism"

That is totally outrageous and utterly disgraceful to try and link the causes of clerical abuse to what you call Leftwing/liberals
What about all the abuse which took place before Vatican II?

You should be completely ashamed of scandalous comment like that!! How dare you say that. It's time this horrible blog was sanctioned.

Anonymous said...

I think you're clutching at straws on this one, political outlook has nothing to do with clerical abuse. Do some research and have a look at the types of Parishes, communities and Clergy who carried out the lions share of the crimes and cover ups. Unfortunatly your theory does not stand up to any factual analysis.
I think you are letting your own predjudice form your opinion on this one...Liberal=Bad people / Trad=Good people. Sadly, life is not that simple.
Martin McNeil

Hercules said...

I'm not linking abuse to left-wing views, and I'm not excluding the abuse committed before Vatican II.

Read the post again. Clericalism allows an abuse of power - an abuse of power which favours clerics even when they are doing things which are against the rules. This clericalism is evident in the sex abuse scandal, and it is evident in other areas of the Church's life.

It's pretty obvious if you think about it. It would be very odd if clericalism only came into operation where paedophilia was at issue. On the contrary, it affects everything.

John L said...

While broadly agreeing with your criticism of clericalism, there is another point that needs to be made. You have to take specifically Irish factors into account when you look at the Ryan report, which documents crimes that seem to be of a different order from those in the UK at least - not sure about North America. These crimes took place by clerics in the employ of the Irish state. This state, at the time when the abuse started, was in the hands of men who had started their careers as ruthless terrorists and killers. This is not to say that the cause of Irish independence for which they had fought was a bad one; it is simply to point out what was involved in the victory of this cause. Such men were not likely to be troubled by violence. Nor were the Irish population, including the clerics, that had lived through the struggle with the British and the civil war; that had no doubt been numbed and traumatised by these struggles; and that had seen the victors in this struggle, and their methods, unquestioningly praised. (This point can be extended to the fighting in Northern Ireland, which was much more violent and horrific than people in Great Britain usually recognise, and that did not come off the boil that long ago.) Part of the Irish problem I think was the too close identification between the Church in Ireland and Irish nationalism, which made a sincere repudiation and renunciation of brutal violence not very easy for the Church.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen